What’s wrong with “Experience Design”

There are so many different words used to describe what we do. User Experience Design (UX or UXD or UED or XD), User Interface Design (UI), Customer Experience Design (CX), Interaction Design, Product Design, Service Design — the list goes on. In fact, it seems that the only thing there are more of than the number of titles is the number of interpretations of what each means.

For example, we could define User Experience Design as the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product, but what does that mean for a Product Designer? Even if we assume the opinion that User Experience Designers are concerned with digital products, and Product Designers are concerned with physical products (which is often not the case), we are still left questioning the role of Interaction Designers in the design of digital products, and how that differs from the role of a UX designer. What if these products are used in a physical environment, such as a retail store? Are both of these responsibilities assumed by a Service Designer? And if not, who is ultimately responsible? And don’t get me started on the difference between User Experience Design and Customer Experience Design.

The fact is that everything we create — everything that one person builds with the intention that another uses it — is an experience. If the experience is created thoughtfully, with a clear understanding of the problem that it’s intended to solve (and for whom) and the best intentions of the designer, it’s likely to be a good experience. If the experience is thrown together haphazardly, unintentionally (or intentionally) ignoring the intended users needs, it’s likely to be a poor experience. Either way, someone is making decisions, and those decisions directly impact the the end user. Regardless of whether you’re a Product Designer, Service Designer, User Experience Designer (or Founder, Product Owner, Product Manager, Business Analyst, Developer…), the core is the same — identify a need which isn’t being met satisfactorily, determine the role you could play in meeting this need, and create something to address it, i.e. an experience.

The solution could be an app, or a website, or a service, or any combination — it’s largely irrelevant, as is what a designer says in their Twitter bio and how that makes them different from the next designer. This decision, along with many others, should be made according to which medium best addresses the problem you’re solving, and the person you’re solving it for, in order to create an optimal experience. This is experience design.

Experience design is the process of understanding people — their needs and motivations — and creating an experience to improve their lives in some way. The experience could take place in a digital environment (a digital experience), in a physical space (a service experience), or a combination of these, but they are all experienced.

More than ever, we have the opportunity to create solutions which will shape the way we experience the future. Rather than trying to stand out based on what we call ourselves (which results in nothing but confusion), we need to focus on the basics — fully understanding people, and the problems they face — and make those basics accessible.